September 6, 2017 – 7:03pm 
The 2018 Honda Odyssey Touring. (Richard Russell)

The 2018 Honda Odyssey Touring. (Richard Russell)

Let’s address the elephant in the room first. Who wants a minivan? According to all reports, they have fallen from favour quicker than a certain U.S. president.

Why, then, would Honda go to all the trouble and expense of developing a brand new minivan?

It gave three reasons:

1. Minivans remain the single most practical vehicle on wheels for the average family. They have a low floor and large sliding doors for easier access than any other vehicle. They have roomier third row seats that are easier to get to, and actual cargo space behind the third row, accessed through a giant door and a low lift-in height. In standard configuration it seats eight — comfortably. In terms of practicality there is no contest.

2. Sales may have declined, but minivans remain one of the largest segments in the industry. For the first six months of the year, sales are off less than one per cent compared to last year. At more than 42,000 units, minivans outsold both mid-size, and large car segments.

3. The Odyssey competes in the upper end of the minivan segment price-wise. Prices range from $34,890 to $50,290. It is the most luxurious vehicle the company sells. The best-selling Odyssey is expected to be the $38,900 EX model. Buyers of these vehicles have proven to be exceptionally loyal to a brand, remaining with it for decades.

From the first day in the development of the fifth-generation Odyssey, the goal was to meet or exceed expectations. Honda interviewed thousands of minivan owners, Odyssey and others, and came up with a list of ‘must-haves.’

The result is the 2018 Honda Odyssey, the new state-of-the-art in minivans. It has a new stronger platform, a heavily-revised engine, new transmissions and a new electric steering system.

But none of that will matter to the average buyer. They will appreciate the improved access to the third row, a raft of new technologies, safety and a lengthy list of thoughtful touches that will be used every day.

One of those thoughtful touches involves the new “magic seats” second-row chairs which slide sideways when the tot-sized middle seat is removed, providing direct access to the roomy third row.

This configuration reduces the seat count from eight to seven, but the upside is an easily reached and spacious third row and the ability to chose between “best-buddy” mode or separate the second row occupants, should that become necessary. The third row drops into the floor when not needed.

Depending on trim level and options, the new Odyssey comes with two features parents will appreciate — Cabin Talk and Cabin Watch. You can talk to those in back through a built-in microphone/speaker system and keep an eye on them through a ceiling-mounted infrared camera.

Neat touches

  • provision for stowing a purse
  • big (20 cm) infotainment screen
  • deep storage box in the console
  • wireless charging pad for your phone on the console
  • on-board vacuum cleaner
  • an app that lets you access several features from your phone
  • on-board 4G LTE WiFi hot spot
  • with all seats down, you can carry a 4×8 sheet of plywood
  • with front passenger seat back down, you can carry very long objects.
  • all trim levels come with HondaSensing, which is the full gamut of lane detection, assisted steering and sensors to warn of other traffic.

As for all that stuff that doesn’t matter? The silky-smooth new engine is more powerful, yet thanks to new nine- and 10-speed transmissions, provides improved fuel economy. Selecting gears is accomplished by pushing buttons instead of moving a lever.

The stiffer and lighter new chassis, revised suspension and new electric steering system make driving a pleasure.

Minivans are a life-cycle vehicle, perfectly suited to the years with young children in the home.

If you fall into this category, you owe it to yourself and your family to try out the 2018 Honda Odyssey.

The specs

  • Model: 2018 Honda Odyssey Touring
  • Engine: 3.5-litre, V6, 280 horsepower, 262 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic
  • NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 12.6 / 8.4
  • Length: 5,161 mm
  • Width: 2,345 mm
  • Wheelbase: 3,000 mm
  • Weight: 2,086 kg
  • Price: $50,290 plus freight
  • Competition: Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Sedona, Toyota Sienna
  • Standard equipment: 19-inch alloy wheels, electric park brake with automatic release, heated power mirrors, power moon roof, power sliding doors, power windows and locks, proximity key entry and push button start, power tailgate with programmable height, 115-volt power outlet, 17-cm colour TFT centre display, auto dimming rear view mirror, infrared cabin-watch rear seat monitor, cabin talk in-car PA system, HandsFree link wireless interface, Display Audio system with bilingual voice recognition, HomeLink remote system, HondaVac, rear-view camera, tilt and telescope steering column, tri-zone automatic climate control, walk-away door locks, wireless charging, heated and ventilated power front seats, 11-speaker, 550-watt premium audio system;,Bluetooth streaming audio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear-seat entertainment system with 27-cm screen, Wi-Fi tethering.